Explained: Qualcomm aptX is everywhere, but what is it?

What is Qualcomm aptX?

AptX is an audio codec that aims to make your music sound as robust as possible while keeping the file size as compact as possible. The transmission method determines how big the file can be, and Bluetooth is… well, let’s put it this way: Wi-Fi is like an eight-lane freeway, while Bluetooth is a two-lane rural highway.

Qualcomm regularly updates aptX so you can have the prettiest, most robust vehicle possible, traveling that two-lane highway right through your ears and into your dome piece, er, brain.

Audio Processing Technology becomes “apt-X”

Audio transmission over Bluetooth radios has evolved significantly from the era of the sole SBC codec. Today, you will likely encounter acronyms for audio codecs like LDAC, AAC, ALAC, or aptX. While some of these are newer technologies, aptX has a history almost as long as Bluetooth, dating back some 30 years. This longevity underscores its relevance and impact on Bluetooth technology today.

APT, or “audio processing technology,” began as a compression algorithm developed in the 1980s by Dr. Stephen Smyth as part of his Ph.D. research, and before it was Qualcomm aptX, it was just “apt-X.”

His work was first used to store CD-quality audio or transfer audio via ISDN lines (the precursor to DSL lines). ISDN lines were akin to that dial-up phone internet connection you’ve likely heard about. Before the advent of broadband, if you wanted CD-quality audio from remote sources, this was how you got it at the enterprise level.

(Image credit: Universal)

In the 1990s, Steven Spielberg collaborated with DTS to use aptX and its compression technology to record audio for 5.1 digital playback. You may have heard of the films played back using this technology: “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Jurassic Park.

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